Is there such a thing as too much power in an old machine?

boss.king

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First off, I'm usually pretty good at this stuff and like finding my own answers, but this is something I need group input on.

TL;DR: Will 16GB or an i7 make a tangible difference to the lifespan of a 2015 13" MBP? Are there downsides like heat or power efficiency to consider? Am I overthinking this?

I'm looking at selling my 2016 nTB MBP as soon as I get it back from the repair store. The keyboard went to **** despite me taking better care of it than I do my own body. I can't trust these keyboards and as a copywriter my job depends on typing, so I'm going back to a 2015 until Apple comes up with their next big thing/literally anything other than butterfly keys.

Since 2012, every Mac I've had has been the same config. 13", i5, 8GB. I've had 2x 2012 non-retina machines, 2x 2013, 1x 2014, and 1x 2016. I didn't break them all, they were mostly work machines and I would get older ones passed down to me after developers and designers got more powerful computers. The 2016 is the only one I actually owned.

As I'm buying a 3 year old machine at this point, it's the first time more RAM and a better CPU has been a viable option for me, and I want to know if there are any real benefits to getting a specced up model.

My uses are as follows:
40% browsing with multiple tabs in Safari/streaming Netflix or Youtube
30% word processing in Pages/Google Docs
10% editing 24MP photos in Lightroom/Capture One Pro and Photoshop (multiple photos, layering, batch exporting, etc)
10% making music in Ableton (still a beginner, not too many plugins etc yet but this may change over time).
5% editing 1080p video in iMovies, maybe FCP in the future if I really get into it.
5% ??? I'm looking into learning super, super basic development, maybe building my own website but nothing complex. This would definitely be a beginner hobby rather than something I'd do professionally. Anything else that might take my interest falls in here. I pick up and drop a lot of hobbies.

Does any of this scream "you need an i7" or "get 16GB or why even bother"? I want to use this machine until I can't repair it anymore or Apple gets their keyboard **** together.
 

Howard2k

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Mar 10, 2016
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I have a 2015 13” with 8GB and it runs like a champ. Actually has faster wifi than several more recent models too, surprisingly.

Nothing screams 16GB to me. But I’d consider paying a slight surcharge for 16 over 8 all the same, if you’re looking to try for extra longevity. I have 8GB and I’m thinking 18 more months on the current battery or 36 months with a replacement.
 
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boss.king

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Nothing screams 16GB to me. But I’d consider paying a slight surcharge for 16 over 8 all the same, if you’re looking to try for extra longevity. I have 8GB and I’m thinking 18 more months on the current battery or 36 months with a replacement.
Thanks for the reply. Nothing really screamed out as needing it to me either but I’ve also never had more than 8 on a Mac so it’s hard to know what I might be missing out on. I guess it can’t hurt to check out some specced out models anyway. Can I ask what processor you have or if you have any thoughts on i5 vs i7.
 

Howard2k

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Mar 10, 2016
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Thanks for the reply. Nothing really screamed out as needing it to me either but I’ve also never had more than 8 on a Mac so it’s hard to know what I might be missing out on. I guess it can’t hurt to check out some specced out models anyway. Can I ask what processor you have or if you have any thoughts on i5 vs i7.
I have the i5, 2.7. I didn’t even consider the i7. It’s personal use. If I was paid by the minute that’s another story, but it doesn’t really matter to me whether an audio conversion is 5 minutes or 4.2 minutes or whatever.

But buying used you are limited by what is around. I would not pay a significant amount more for an i7 based on my usage. For the 13” the next big step is the 2018 Quad Core.
 
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iPhonagain

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Dec 28, 2009
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I totally agree with Howard2k, I've also got a 13" 2015 MBPr, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, only upgrade I desire is bigger SSD which can be done with minimum effort. It's the best!
 
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boss.king

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Thanks guys, I guess I’ll be sticking with i5 and 8 gigs unless I find a really good deal on a higher specced model. The one upgrade I don’t actually need is more storage (at least not at the moment) so 256 will be more than enough.
 

hm17

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Nov 7, 2018
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Your thinking resonates so much with me in an age of seemingly blind consumerism. I was in a similar position earlier this year. Had a wonderful 2014 rMBP (mid-tier i5, 8GB, 256GB) but the 8GB started to show when I was working with larger datasets. Didn't render the machine unusable at all, but there was an occasional, momentary freeze that surely was exacerbated by my habit of having multiple (3-5) Chrome windows open with around 15-20 tabs each. While the 2014 would surely have been good to use for another 1-2 years with more careful RAM management, I realised the tragedy of the butterfly keyboards in the nick of time and decided to "upgrade" as long as there were still like-new 2015 rMBPs around.

I sold my 2014 for good money (€ 900) and got a barely used 2015 rMBP with the following configuration: base i5, 16GB, 1TB. According to benchmarks, the 2015 base i5 is in fact slightly slower than the mid-tier i5 I had in my 2014 and I believe I notice it when I fire up my one and only game every once in a while: classic Sims 2. Although even the 2014's fans spun out of control during my Sims 2 sessions, I feel like they do it slightly more on the 2015 and some loading screens take 2-3 seconds longer. ;)

Apart from this very specific scenario, I have only noticed massive improvements: I can't put into the words the absolute delight to no longer having to use external HDDs for my photo libraries as now all of them fit onto the inbuilt 1TB SSD. Then there are the 16GB RAM... which translate into a buttery smooth workflow even on large datasets and my jungle of Chrome tabs. I haven't had so much as a stutter on this machine yet (knock on wood). Last but not least, the greatest luxury (because no amount of money can buy it in any of the new Macbooks): the keyboard. I have tried the butterfly keyboards and for me personally, they feel like typing on glass in comparison to the classic chiclet.

Had I bought a 2018 Macbook Pro with the baseline processor, 1TB SSD and 16GB RAM, this luxury would have cost me € 2600 as opposed to the € 1200 I paid for my used 2015 rMBP (€ 900 of which were covered by the sale of my 2014 rMBP). Like you, I would have never been able to justify this much money on a computer.

So, take it from my experience that 16GB and a large SSD can give you immediate benefits well worth the "splurge", especially since you do appear to work with space-hungry photo and video libraries.
If Apple decides to keep doubling down on their mission for thinness, the butterfly keyboard may continue to be tweaked, but not replaced by a design with more key travel as this would require a slightly thicker machine. With 16GB, you can wait out a few more keyboard redesigns than you will be able to with 8GB. But if you can get an 8GB model right now for a good price, by all means, take it. According to my anecdotal experience you can sell them off quickly with little loss, should a 16GB version suddenly pop up. :)
 
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boss.king

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Thanks for the detailed reply. As I mentioned in my previous comment, storage space is one of the things I’m not actually too concerned about. I have external drives if I need them or I could always upgrade if I really need it.

As you point out though, with the age of the 2015 machines and the resale value from my 2016 model, an upgraded version may not end up costing me anything, making it a no brainer.